Why I Won’t Participate in That Thing You Were Talking About.

November 8th, 2010


Dear Awesome Person—

First, let me be clear: you are no doubt amazing, and I am certain that the [socially conscious / fun / social-media-oriented / generally badass] [project / shindig / meeting / fundraiser] you’re planning will rock the Casbah in ways seldom contemplated, let alone achieved. Plaudits will rain down on you. Deservedly so.

Alas, I will not [participate / write a guest post / be in attendance / do that thing you asked me to do]. Not to be clichéd, but I want you to know that it’s not you—it’s me.

See, I’m a family man with a beautiful wife, wonderful children, a fun but demanding job, a lifelong goal of writing books, and a firm commitment to achieving tip-top physical condition. Something has to give—many somethings, actually—and unfortunately your project is one of them.

It’s not that I wouldn’t like to take part in your thing. Chances are very good that I would enjoy it immensely. But I have discovered that, like Jon Stewart, my creativity can only find its best expression through highly disciplined processes. Like Anthony Trollope, I have to dedicate a non-negotiable part of each day to my writing (and to my wife, my kids, my job, and my workouts). Like my friend Chris Brogan, I have to “pay myself first” in the form of ample sleep so that I can do my best work. Against my extroverted tendencies, I’m even forcing myself, like Neal Stephenson, to become a (somewhat) bad correspondent.

Why? Because I haven’t yet demonstrated the same commitment to writing books that Will Self does. (R-rated language there—though if it takes some f-bombs to get the books written, I’m all for it.)

That means, and here the Stephenson and Self references will have tipped you off, that sometimes I may even have to risk sounding rude about how I set my priorities, and how your project fits—or rather, doesn’t fit—into them.

But please believe me, it’s not meant to be rude. It’s only done because this life is finite, and when it’s over I’ll be dead a long, long time. I have to choose how to spend the hours wisely, and that means pursuing what I find truly worth doing, whether I fail or succeed.

Unfortunately, your thing—awesome though it promises to be or already is—just isn’t my thing. And experience tells me that, if I don’t focus on my thing, I’ll go crazy.

Hey, I do find moments here and there to blow off steam, socialize, and share neat (or just goofy) ideas. I do it on this blog, on Facebook, on Twitter. By all means, look me up. We’ll hang out virtually. That will be awesome, too.

But please don’t expect me to commit to something that’s just not my thing.

Yours most sincerely,



(Image by Jason Carlin, used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.)

19 Responses to “Why I Won’t Participate in That Thing You Were Talking About.”

  1. Glenda Spain Says:


  2. Suzanne Says:

    I am so digging hanging out with you online, virtually, at our shindig here. Dancing in the plaudits as they rain down from the pundits as they reign down. Really enjoyed reading this. Many good points and inspiration for the writerly creature I’ve buried under fun and OPP — other people’s parties. ;-)

  3. Felicia Adams Says:

    Yay for you! I am working on getting to this point myself. I have a decently largeish job, 4 kids, a husband I adore, and some educational aspirations. I sooo enjoy most of the social things (and there are a TON of them any given week) that it’s hard for me to turn down invites. I need to remind myself of this post more often though. Your words are right — “this life is finite and when it’s over I’ll be dead a long, long time”. I need to be more okay with saying “No” and focusing on my priorities more. In the end, that’s what matters. I tend to spread myself too thin and thus don’t do things as completely. Not good.

    Awesome, timely, wise (as usual) post :)

  4. Colleen Pence Says:

    Tim, I LOVE this post. Can’t stop thinking about it. I’m a people pleaser who can’t seem to say no but I’m learning the hard way that I have to sometimes. I agree with Felicia. Your words are right: “this life is finite and when it’s over I’ll be dead a long, long time”.

    *That* is where your post resonates with me. I’ve been repeating that like a mantra since I read it. It’s simple and true. It’s something we all know but take for granted. Thanks for this reminder.

  5. Donloree Hoffman Says:

    YES! There are a million good things to do, but focus on the BEST. I am working on this as well. This is exactly what I needed to hear this morning.
    Thank you.

  6. Allie @ Healthy Balance, Healthy Life Says:

    I could learn a lot from you. Thanks!

  7. Susie Sharp Says:

    I am bookmarking this and expect to call on it many times. My 2011 resolve – NO MORE FREEBIES!

  8. Jim Mitchem Says:

    Brilliant. I’m just going to post this post to my forehead and walk around in social media for a while. Thanks.

  9. Carrie Wilkerson Says:

    OH WOW…printing out


    Saving link


    and blowing kisses your way for verbalizing this so beautifullllllly…. ;)

    mwa mwa mwa mwa


    love it – let’s hang out ;)

  10. Krista Carnes Says:

    When Chris Brogan tweets a post as one of the best he’s read in a long time, I pay attention. Thanks for a great mindset adjustment, Tim. As I plan my big (and even small) projects for 2011, I will remember to take these ideas into account in structuing what I ask of my partners (co-consipirators?) and, more importantly, what I ask of myself.

    Happy 2011 to you!

  11. Shane Arthur Says:

    I love stumbling onto a post where the writer so obviously displays his love and respect for the craft of writing (well). And I couldn’t agree more on the message, either. If I don’t write something for me at least twice a week, I go nuts.

    Write on, Tim.

  12. Krista Carnes Says:

    Wow! So many typos in that post! Guess 2011 is off to an imperfect start. So be it! Thanks, again.

  13. PhillyMac Says:


  14. Scott Ellis Says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself… run into this at least once a week. I wish I had something more valuable to add than just “awesome post” but not much I can add so …awesome post!

    Good to meet you Tim! Looking forward to more…

  15. Darryl Praill Says:

    Thanks for writing this Tim. It needs to be said. And said again. And again. Congrats. Now, about that thing I need you to do….

  16. Tim Walker Says:

    Wow — thanks for the kind words, everybody. Glad to know that what I wrote here struck a chord, with Chris B. and with all of you.

    A few individual remarks:

    Jim — Please just don’t *tattoo* it to your forehead. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for anything that permanent. ;)

    Carrie — You and I might even be in range to share a cup of coffee in real life. (Shocking, I know.)

    Shane — Thanks for the kind words about my writing. Those of us who care about words ought to stick together.

    Krista — I embrace your errors. :)

    Thanks again, all!

  17. nalts Says:

    But I’ll say yes because I have a difficult time saying no to anything. Of course I’ll SAY yes but then probably forget. It’s not the same thing as saying no, though. It’s ruder.

  18. carrie Says:

    Yes, this is great, so great that people might keep it in mind when you next have something to offer them…

  19. Tim Walker Says:

    Carrie — My hope is that, when I have something to offer, it will be something that people will value. And, if it helps, I’m very un-demanding on others’ time — and even more so after putting it out there with this post.

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